EAST AFRICA – Trademark East Africa is working with East African Community member countries to harmonise the standard regulations of the commonly traded goods in the bloc to stimulate business in the region.
This is based on a study by East Africa Business Council conducted last year, dubbed: Prioritisation of EAC standards and technical regulations for development, harmonisation, revision or withdrawal.
The survey determined that agricultural and manufactured products are the most traded in the bloc.
It also identified 93 most traded goods such as tea, cement, iron and steel products, petroleum oils and related items.
Edible fats and oils, tobacco and tobacco products, soap and detergents, paper and paperboards, containers, medicaments, beer and other fermented products were also categorised as most traded.
A total of 170 specific raw materials used for manufacturing various products in the EAC are also traded the most.
Import products from the rest of the world were 44 and the most exported goods to the rest of the world were 68.
According to the director of Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) and Standards at TradeMark East Africa (TMEA), Mr José Maciel, standards can cut the cost and time of doing business by huge amounts.
“The difference in technical regulations and standards among partner states and lack of EAC technical regulations framework are some of the constraints to intra-EAC trade,” reads the report.
The five partner states are now in the process of preparation, approval and adoption of the standards related to these products under national standards bodies in each member country.
“Standards are vital to integration; in addition to safeguarding the health and safety of consumers and the environment, in that sense, they are central to future wealth of the EAC,” Mr Maciel added.
At national levels, TMEA is supporting the partner states with provision of equipment and capacity building to the national bureaus of standards to enable them to carry out their duties in an efficient and effective manner.
At the regional level, TMEA is supporting the EAC bloc with initiatives on standards harmonisation.
To date, 94 standards have been harmonised, under the EAC technical committees, out of which only 41 were gazetted and formally declared as EAC standards.
These include standards in vital industries such as edible oils, fish and fish products and steel and steel products.
The 41 gazetted standards account for approximately Sh25.7 billion ($289 million) worth of products whose trade is facilitated at the regional level.
These standards will not undergo any additional scrutiny by multiple national bureaus of standards.
“By 2016, we are expecting that the standards work will have facilitated trade worth an estimated Sh311.5 trillion ($3.5 billion),” said Mr Maciel.
He added: “It’s a slow process, but our EAC partners are pushing ahead to remove these technical barriers to trade as soon as they can.”
TMEA aims to harmonise an additional 15 standards by the end of its calendar year, 2014.